En réponse à David Peterson <[log in to unmask]>:

>     Speaking of which, has anyone (particularly someone living in
> France)
> heard of the Assimil series?  One of my professors professed (ha, ha)
> those
> to be the only language books that can actually teach you how to
> speak/read/write a language.

I know the Assimil series (being French myself :)) ). I've looked at them in
different bookstores, but never bought any of them (they're much too expensive
for me, they are usually twice as expensive as other language books). They do
look better than any other methods I've seen. They are usually big books, with
at least 100 lessons in each. I think if you work correctly with them (but it
seems to take quite some time), you will indeed learn really to speak a
language (if you get the tapes with them, their pronunciation explanations are
usually quite strange, usually correct but impossible to follow :) ). As far as
I know, they are very good at teaching to write in a writing system you don't
know at first (with even explanations on how to draw the characters, and
drawings). They are also very progressive, but dare to present difficult
features quite fast, so that the learner can use the following lessons to
master these difficulties.

And they have also these little drawings with characters using expressions or
words of the preceeding lesson(s). They are usually stupid, but help to get a
grasp of the real use of a language.

Still, their price is quite a big drawback.